State of play: week 4

Spending a lot of time in bed since getting my second dose of chemo on Thursday.

My experience of it is that it’s like an all of body nausea. You just want to lay there without twitching a muscle. I’m on the heaviest dose, so it makes some sense, though there was some discussion on Thursday about changing the type of chemo medicine because of the ringing in my ears. That didn’t happen.

I had to go in early yesterday for my radiotherapy session, and it was a feat of endurance. I came home and went to bed and had a broken sleep until mid-afternoon.

I slept well again last night – another 10 hours – and have been lying quietly in bed since I woke. It’s too early to say, but I may be marginally better today – the extremes are receding. I’ll be back to bed soon anyway.

I’ve started losing my hair, mostly from radiotherapy. My cheek was rosy with sunburn for a while, though it seems to have settled down. I’m using a cream on it. A large patch of facial hair has fallen out, including half of my mo. I’ll need to shave sometime. I’m starting to notice hairs on my pillow, too.

I had a couple of check-ups on Friday, once in the cancer ward and the other down in radiotherapy. In the first place, I had my blood pressure checked, and it was found to be pretty low – 88/49. That explains the dizzy spells and isn’t entirely surprising given the weight I’ve lost and the fact I’ve been on tablets for high blood pressure. No longer.

In radiotherapy, a quick examination revealed I had contracted thrush, which accounted for the nasty taste in my mouth. I’ve been given some lozenges to clear it up, hoping that will make eating and drinking a little easier.

I should mention the chemo session. As you might imagine, it’s quiet there but for the odd beeping off a machine. There are cubicles arrayed around the floor with reclining chairs in which people like me take their dose of chemo medicine. It’s like a modern opium den. I saw one man working on a laptop, but most seemed to lie quietly with their seat reclined, half asleep.

With one arm out of commission, it’s no good bringing a book to read. I had thought about taking a nap but was put off. As before, I listened to music and to an audiobook story by H.G. Welles. As before, it took about four hours to pump the stuff into me – magnesium, then the chemo drug, then saline.

As of now, there are 15 treatment days to go. I’m over halfway. It should be okay, except the chemo makes it hard. That’ll get better in days, but I won’t eat much through then and I’ll rest a lot. You just have to ride it out. Once it clears, I’ll manage it better.

As you would imagine, I’m losing weight steadily, though not precipitately. I think it’s about now that they fear it’ll start to come off more quickly. They might be right. My stomach is entirely flat, and my hips slim. There’s still a bit of subcutaneous fat to go, and I reckon I can lose another few kilos (4-5) and remain at a safe weight.

I’ve also lost the muscle mass I’d accumulated over a lifetime of activity. I’ve still got a decent-sized chest and shoulders, but it’s structural rather than muscular. When all this settles down, it’s funny to think I might be at my fittest weight since my twenties. It’s good to be slim, but there’ll be a lot to make up.

I might look it, but there’s not much fitness in me. As is, I haven’t got the wind to walk more than a couple of hundred metres at a time, if that. And putting the muscle back on will add weight. That’s still a way away, a time to look forward to because I’ll be eating properly again.

In the meantime, it’s three weeks in total treatment, then another two weeks probably to allow the cells in my face to regenerate.

Same old story. Take it as it comes.

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